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Domo arigato Mr. Roboto

  Newsletter Article

Priests, products and posteriors: Unusual uses for unusual robots!

Here at Rutronik24, it’s time that we finally nailed our colors to the mast and spoke the truth: The robots are stealing our jobs! That’s not a joke: Over the years, our metal colleagues, which were once mere assistants to their human masters, have continuously evolved into multifaceted tools of industrialized societies. Hardly any industry can get by without robots. Yes, even tasks that we thought could never be done by a robot are being performed with ease by the automatons.

We found it a little difficult to comprehend the reason why Japanese humanoid greeters are so good. Now a piece of news has hit us like a ton of bricks: The car manufacturer Ford will also be using a robot that goes by the name of “Robutt” to help it develop its vehicle seats in future. The clever play on words aside (we love a pun here at R24!), this is a devastating development: The Robutt has various seating programs for simulating the positions and sliding movements of a human posterior in the vehicle seat. It sits down in the vehicle 25,000 times in three weeks, thereby recreating the kind of stress a seat is subjected to over a period of ten years. Ford hopes to gain a more precise understanding of the wearability of materials in order to produce improved vehicle seats.

All the same – and the robotic rear comforts us somewhat in this regard – the robot is not stealing any human jobs in this field, because the stress test has always been performed by pneumatically operated cylinders. However, unlike the Robutt and human behinds, they were only able to move horizontally or vertically. As such, the cylinders are now jobless, but are sure to find other useful employment elsewhere.

Samsung has found another use for artificial backsides: After Apple became a laughing stock with its iPhone 6 Plus and #bendgate, the South Korean competitor wished to avoid a similar fiasco and had robotic rears developed to sit on the smartphones. By doing so, Samsung wanted to make sure that its products didn’t bend like those of its competitor. It worked: The manufacturer was able to steer clear of ridicule ... at least until one battery after the other started going up in flames. In any case, a smartphone stress test would certainly also have been possible with human testers. And there would have been plenty of Apple fans who would have willingly taken on the job. Robot researchers and manufacturers generally appear to be highly fascinated by the human posterior: Laboratory workers at Imperial College in London have developed a robotic rectum that can also be observed through 3D glasses for educational purposes. Whatever the reason, in this case we are just happy that there is “work” for these robots.

Enough talk of backsides already! Robots can also be found in other, completely obscure areas of our lives. For instance, there really is such a thing as a digital Buddhist monk. The model developed by a Japanese company (where else?) goes by the name of Pepper and is 120 centimeters tall. Its actual job was to serve sushi and assist customers with banking transactions. However, for a modest fee of 50,000 yen (approx. 400 euros), people can now book it as an inexpensive alternative to human priests – for funerals. And the robot has one big advantage over traditional priests: It can conduct the funeral service in line with the rites of the four biggest Buddhist movements. However, it is unclear whether the union of Buddhist monks is as pleased about the mechanical competition.

At any rate, we admire the people in the Far East for their outlandish ideas: A Korean baseball team, the Hanwha Eagles, relies on robotic support from the stands. It came about as follows: After a never-ending series of defeats, the Eagles had problems filling their stadium. As a result, the players had to take to the field in front of empty stands, which is unlikely to have increased their motivation and chances of winning. So robots were sat in the seats and programmed to cheer, sing, and initiate Mexican waves. What’s more (and equally clever), fans who cannot or do not wish to come to the game themselves have the opportunity to project their faces onto the robots in the stadium. It actually sounds quite appealing: Support for the team with no brawls or verbal insults. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to try it out in soccer. And since being a fan is not exactly work, the plastic supporters are not stealing anybody’s job.

There are plenty of other stories of this kind, but our robotic boss as just instructed us to bring things to a conclusion and invited us to the workshop for a tasty drop of motor oil. In any case, we are pleased that our pen-pushing activities have not yet been taken over by robots. Or have they?